LEGGETT (CBS SF/AP) — A woman was drunk when she drove a SUV off a Highway 1 cliff in Mendocino County, killing herself, her wife and three children and leaving three other children missing, authorities announced Friday.
California Highway Patrol Capt. Bruce Carpenter said that toxicology tests found Jennifer Hart had an alcohol level of .102 — above the legal limit of 0.08 in the state.
He said toxicology tests also found that her wife, Sarah Hart, and two of their adopted children had “a significant amount” of an ingredient commonly found in the allergy drug Benadryl, which can make people sleepy.
“We have determined that Jennifer Hart’s blood alcohol level was above the legal limit,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said his agency has worked with the FBI to track cellphone data and determined the family route of travel before the fatal crash.
“We believe the Hart incident was intentional,” he told reporters of the crash off an ocean overlook on a rugged part of coastline on March 26th.
The 100-foot drop killed the women, both 39, and their children Markis Hart, 19; Jeremiah Hart, 14; and Abigail Hart, 14. Hannah Hart, 16; Devonte Hart, 15; and Sierra Hart, 12, remain missing. A body recovered on April 7 has not yet be identified.
The Harts lived in Woodland, Washington, a small city outside Portland, Oregon, and had a recent visit from Child Protective Services, Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Brent Waddell told The Associated Press.
He said the sheriff’s office later entered the house and found no obvious signs of trouble or violence. It appeared the family planned a short trip because they left behind a pet, chickens and most of their belongings.
Other records released to The Oregonian/OregonLive this week from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services show Child Protective Services initially tried to contact the Harts on March 23 after abuse allegations were made against them by the family’s next-door neighbors.
An official went to the family’s home, knocked and rang the doorbell and left her card in the front door, records said. Two officials returned March 26 — the day the Harts’ SUV was found — and the card from the Friday before had been removed. One of the officials left another card and called law enforcement and requested a welfare check.
A deputy went the same day to the home in rural Woodland, Washington, and no one appeared to be home, records said.
Authorities returned the next day, and no one appeared to be home again.
In 2011, Sarah Hart was convicted of domestic assault in Minnesota for physical abuse involving one of the children who was then 6 years old, according to court records. The family also was investigated in 2013 when they lived in Oregon after a family friend reported witnessing “controlling emotional abuse and cruel punishment” toward the children.
Authorities said previously that data from the vehicle’s software suggested the crash was deliberate. They said the SUV had stopped at a coastal highway overlook before speeding straight off the cliff and plummeting 100 feet (31 meters) into the rocky Pacific Ocean below.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday said deputies will keep searching the county coastline for the missing children as calls for service allow and that search and rescue divers are readying to be deployed to the crash site area once ocean conditions improve.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.